Doctors and patients have many different tools available in the war against cancer. Imaging is one of the essential resources used in such battles. Imaging helps screen and diagnose cancer and can be used to guide treatments and determine the efficacy of various therapies. Therefore, advancements in imaging can have profound effects on the ability to manage — and hopefully in the future — prevent or cure the disease.
The goal of cancer imaging is to detect the smallest possible number of tumor cells at the earliest possible time. Traditionally, X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, single-photon emission computed tomography, and positron emission tomography have been utilized as key cancer imaging techniques. These technologies are being studied and advancing.
Imaging probes are one area of imaging worthy of attention. The Center for Probe Development and Commercialization, a supplier of radiopharmaceuticals, is developing the next generation of molecular imaging probes. They are designed to detect responses to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. CPDC also has started to manufacture another probe designed to identify hypoxic tumors. These probes work on a molecular level, according to data published in 2013 in the International Journal of Biomedical Imaging. Molecular imaging has the potential to greatly enhance understanding of various cancers.
Another cancer imaging and evaluation tool that is being produced and tested is called the MasSpec Pen, which enables a controlled and automated delivery of a water droplet to a tissue surface during tumor surgery or diagnostic exploration to extract biomolecules. The sample taken can immediately tell if cancer cells are present and distinguish tumors from healthy tissue.
Imaging has merged nanotechnology and conventional imaging tools with new developments. These technologies are still in the testing phase. Novel diagnostic probes with nanoparticles can improve imaging results. A 2018 review paper published in the Journal of Controlled Release looked at how nanotechnology could improve the imaging and treatment of lung cancer. For example, gold nanoparticles work better than iodine-based agents for CT imaging. Similarly, superparamagnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles can be utilized with MRI for the ultra-sensitive reactions they produce.
Other imaging technologies in the works involve combining and improving the workflow of various methodologies. Philips Medical Systems’ Ingenia MR-RT Oncology Configuration is a comprehensive solution that allows radiation oncology departments to integrate MRI into their computed tomography-based radiation treatment planning.
In addition to the imaging evolution itself, researchers have realized the limitations of the human eye to discern abnormalities or small changes from images collected. Therefore, technological advancements are enabling artificial intelligence to look for key signs in images and correlate changes to the aggressiveness of the disease. This can improve treatment success rates and reduce the chances for human oversight.
Imaging plays a key role in cancer diagnoses and therapies. Improving cancer imaging can improve treatment plans now and in the future.